PDCA is an acronym that stands for, ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act.’ In some cases it is said to stand for, ‘Plan, Do, Check, Adjust’ instead. Either way, the concepts are the same and the processes that companies are following will be the same. It is a simple option for helping a business with the goal of continuous improvement. It can be used for either improving products or improving processes, which is one of the many reasons it is so popular with companies around the world. When used a facility will keep going through the PDCA cycle over and over to optimize everything that they do.
During the planning phase of this process, interested parties will work together to establish objectives and find the processes that are involved. Knowing what goals are in place, and what areas need to change, and how they need to be changed, will help to get this system started in the right direction.
In this step the ideas that are developed in the plan phase are implemented. Depending on the nature of the changes that are planned it is possible to either put the entire plan into action, or just implement small sections of it at a time. Either way, taking the plan into a live system is the important part of this step.
In the check phase data will need to be collected. This data can (and should) come from a variety of different sources. Any area that is imp acted in any way by the changes that were put in place during the ‘do’ phase will need to gather data. This data is then analyzed to determine if the desired results were found. In many cases this is going to be the longest of the steps in this system lifecycle because it is usually necessary to gather data over a long enough period to ensure it is accurate. The exact length of time spent on this step will depend on the specifics of the proposed changes.
In this last step the involved team members will take the data that was gathered in the ‘check’ phase and use it to adjust the product or processes. Depending on the specifics of a specific situation the changes will flow directly into the start of another PDCA rotation. If all the parties are happy with the overall results, this step can include rolling out the changes across the entire facility so everyone can start benefiting from the change. Even when a new process is rolled out to everyone, however, it will typically be a good idea to keep going through the PDCA process to find additional areas where things can be improved.
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